For people who are fans of Boardwalk Empire, then this book is for you. The main character, Joe Coughlin, is the son of a police commissioner in South Boston. Joe and his two best pals, Dion and Paolo, form their own little crew during the Prohibition years. They embark on a series of petty crimes and stick ups. Joe falls for one of the Boston bosses mistresses – the cold as ice Emma Gould.
After disappointing his father during a bloody stick up attempt that was foiled by a traitor, Joe does some time in the prison in Charlestown, Massachusetts. A series of events ends with Joe becoming part of the Mafia and being sent to Tampa, Florida to become a very profitable rum runner.
This is where the story truly begins to pick up steam as Joe creates alliances with Cuban Freedom Fighters, Italian Mafiosi and Spanish and Latin gangsters and outlaws. They take on and pocket crooked politicians, cops, councilmen and businessmen. They stave off rival organizations as well as a very active Ku Klux Klan and religious zealots and teetotalers.
The story flows beautifully and the characters are excellently drawn. As well, for fans of the early days of the mob, there are nods to Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky who controlled most of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. The nightlife in Tampa is well explained – speakeasies, illegal gambling, Cuban social clubs and the like.
Like Boardwalk Empire, Lehane shows consistently throughout the book how bad money can do good things and create infrastructure where poverty previously existed and how good money isn’t always as pristine as it seems. When I picked this book up, I expected it to be a lightweight read that I would be able to pick up and put down between other books I was reading. The story was so well done and so riveting that it only took me two days to read it. There were no interruptions fro the other books either – they were set aside as Live By Night had my full and undivided attention.
This is my first Lehane novel but it will definitely not be the last. He is the author of Mystic River which I really enjoyed as a movie and if this book is anything to go by, I expect the novel to be even better. Highly recommend this read but be prepared to be unable to put it down!